Wild wolf OR7 is back in California

04/06/2012 12:00 AM

04/06/2012 10:10 AM

The wandering wolf known as OR7 has returned to California.

The wild gray wolf, who has captivated the world with his long-ranging search for a mate, crossed the border from Oregon on Sunday and remained in Siskiyou County as of Thursday morning.

The wolf is in the same general vicinity where he originally crossed into California on Dec. 28, becoming the first wild wolf in the state in more than 90 years.

"I have given up trying to predict anything with this critter," said Karen Kovacs, wildlife program manager at the California Department of Fish and Game. "I thought, frankly, when he left the state last, in early March, for sure he is not coming back. He is incredibly interesting."

The nearly 3-year-old male wolf was born to a wolf pack that established itself in Oregon thanks to migrants from Idaho. The wolves were part of a federal reintroduction effort that began in 1995.

The wolf is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. It was dubbed OR7 by Oregon wildlife officials because it was the seventh wild wolf born in that state. A contest by the environmental group Oregon Wild subsequently produced a different name: Journey.

The California Department of Fish and Game has resumed posting daily updates of OR7's – or Journey's – location on its website, thanks to the GPS collar he wears. The posted location is not specific and is delayed by at least 12 hours to protect the animal from poachers.

If not for the GPS collar, almost no one would know of the wolf's presence in the state.

OR7 roamed more than 1,000 miles across Oregon, reaching as far into California as the outskirts of Susanville. The wolf did so, apparently, without being seen by any humans and without harming any livestock or other domestic animals.

Biologists say the journey is normal dispersal behavior by a young wolf in search of a mate. Finding no mate in California, OR7 crossed back into Oregon on March 6.

Many observers suspected OR7 would remain in Oregon, perhaps eventually linking up with another dispersing wolf.

Now it appears that OR7 plans to continue exploring the state border region the wolf has come to know well.

"He's still exhibiting the same types of behaviors, and that is of a lone male wolf," Kovacs said. "He's a very resourceful creature."

Kovacs said field investigations have shown that OR7 is eating deer. In one case, she said, it appears the wolf took over a deer carcass from a mountain lion.

The wolf has also fed on livestock carcasses dumped by ranchers. Kovacs encouraged ranchers to dispose of their dead animals instead by burying them if possible. She said that might avoid potential wolf problems, as well as ensure that other wildlife doesn't get used to feeding on domestic animals.

People seeking updates on OR7 and other wolf information can visit: www.dfg.ca.gov/wolf.

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